Saturday, 2 March 2013

Macaroni (and veg) and cheese

Macaroni (and vegetables) and cheese

It's the first Saturday night of Autumn, it has been pouring with rain, and I had a big run this morning... what else could improve a night in than some cosy carb and cheese loading to make me feel better.  This brings me to some macaroni and cheese! Of course, I couldn't possibly serve anything up without a load of vegetable thrown in. And some bacon for the husband. 
This makes a large lasagne tray full, as I need some leftovers in the fridge this week! Feel free to halve it to feed just 2.

Here are most of your ingredients, and big lasagne tray. Feel free to chop and change the vegetables which you're using (as long as you're eating some!). Carrots, peas, corn etc. will all work just fine.
Start with a big pot of boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.
Once it's boiling, throw you packet of macaroni into the water (500g)
 Make sure you stir it around so the pasta doesn't stick together!
Leave that for 8 minutes (or until it is al dente- not soggy!)
Now time to get your vegetables ready which we'll be stirring in with the macaroni. Take your onion (or onions if they are small), and dice them up

 Crush your garlic cloves with the side of a knife and dice those up too.
 Heat a big heavy pan, with one teaspoon of olive oil. Throw in your onion and garlic, and let it cook for a few minutes until soft.
In the meantime, you can start to chop up your cauliflower. A whole small head or half a big one. The great thing about the recipe is that you don't need to keep the cauliflower in the florets it comes in. Just dice it up, longways
 then lengthways, until it's in nice small chunks.
By now your onion will be just starting to brown
Throw in 250g of diced bacon. Mine already came diced so no chopping up photos here sorry!
 Stir it around and let the bacon start to brown for a few minutes.
Don't forget to drain your pasta! 
Just so it doesn't stick, rinse your pasta with some cold water. 
 Back to your pan, throw the diced cauliflower in, stir it around and let it cook with the bacon and onion for 5-10 minutes
Let the cauliflower just start to brown up. 
 Find a grater, and grate up the two zucchinis.

Mix the zucchini in with the cauliflower, bacon and onion. Turn the heat off now, this will stop the zucchini over cooking. If you have some fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, even mint) add them now.
Now time to make the white/bechamel/cheese sauce. The secret to this is don't stop stirring!!! 
Start with a small saucepan, and over low heat, melt 40g of butter. 
 Add 3 tablespoons of plain flour.
(now start stirring and don't stop).
Once the butter and flour are well amalgamated, and just starting to bubble (after about 2 minutes)
 Have about 500mls of milk ready. Pour in about half a cup at a time, adding more when it starts to thicken up. 
 Keep stirring on low heat and the lumps will disappear (unlike this picture)
While you're making the sauce, you can add a little extra flavour in- I have thrown in a bay leaf and some nutmeg. If you like, you can skip these and add some cayenne pepper, or chilli for a real kick.
Now find that grater again, and grate up 300g of cheese. You can use any type- mozzarella, parmesan, strong cheddar, even blue cheese. Or just boring old tasty cheese which is all I have in the fridge! 
Stir 200g into the white sauce (taking out the bay leaf if using)
 Mix until it's melted and add some pepper. It should be silky smooth by now.
Now it's time to start assembling! In a big family sized baking dish, pour in your macaroni. Spread it out, and break up any clumps as you go.
On top of that, pour on the vegetable/bacon mix.
 Now stir/fold the pasta and vegetables so they are well amalgamated.
 Time to add the sauce! Drizzle it evenly over your dish.
And give it a quick stir so it sinks down and coats all the pasta and veges. 
Finish by sprinkling the last of the cheese on top. 
 Then sprinkle a cup of breadcrumbs on top too (this gives a great crispy top). 
And you're ready to pop it into the oven! Bake at 190 degrees c for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Beautiful and golden, out of the oven.
Serve and enjoy on a rainy night in.

Macaroni (and vegetables) and cheese

500g macaroni pasta
2 tsp salt
1 large brown onion (or 2 small), diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
250g bacon diced
1 head cauliflower
2 zucchinis
1 teaspoon olive oil
Fresh herbs -parsley/thyme (optional)

White/bechamel/cheese sauce:
40g butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
500mls milk
200g cheese, grated
1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 bay leaf (optional) -other option is some chilli, or mustard!

To top:
1 cup breadcrumbs &
100g cheese grated

1. Cook pasta until al dente (just a little bitey, mine took 8 minutes) in salted water. Do not overcook! Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a big pan, fry up onion and garlic over low heat until softened. Increase heat and add Bacon.  Cook until just starting to brown.
3. Dice up the cauliflower and add to the onion/bacon mix. Stir for 5-10 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and has colour on all sides.
4. Grate the zucchinis, and stir into cauliflower mix. Turn the heat off and let it sit while you make the white sauce.
5. White sauce: In a small saucepan on very low heat, melt butter, add flour and stir to combine until just bubbling. Slowly add the milk half a cup at a time, while stirring constantly. Add nutmeg, pepper and bay leaf, however take bay leaf out before serving. Once all the milk is combined, stir the cheese in so it is melted and a smooth consistency.
6. To assemble: Fold pasta and vegetable mix together in a large lasagne/baking dish. Pour over white sauce and fold in to combine. Top with extra cheese and breadcrumbs. Place in oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees, or until the top is golden brown.
Makes 6 big serves.

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